RCMP horse auction draws bidders from across Canada, U.S.

Horse enthusiasts from across North America descended on Ottawa Saturday as the RCMP put horses that had been disqualified from the force's Musical Ride on the auction block.

Horses didn't meet stringent qualifications for force's Musical Ride

Eighteen horses that didn't meet the requirements for the RCMP's Musical Ride were auctioned off on Saturday, raising over $300,000. 0:37

Horse enthusiasts from across North America descended on Ottawa Saturday as the RCMP put horses that had been disqualified from the force's Musical Ride on the auction block.

This year, the RCMP had 35 Hanoverian horses to sell after counting them out for the world-famous equestrian showcase.

The Musical Ride has exacting standards for both its human and equine performers. Any horse that's too tall, too short, or not the right colour — they must be black or very dark brown — simply won't do. 

Seventeen horses were sold over 30 days in August and September during the RCMP Foundation's first-ever online auction.

The remaining 18 were sold at Saturday's live auction, which drew the attention of around 90 bidders.

The sale brought in over $300,000, according to a manager for the event, with the priciest horse going for $35,000.

Riders perform 'the charge' during the RCMP musical ride show in Apsley, Ont. in 2016. On Saturday the RCMP auctioned off 18 horses in Ottawa that didn't meet the ride's stringent qualifications. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Live auctions can be challenging for some horses, said Sylvie Madely, CEO and president of the RCMP Foundation, which organized both auctions.

To get comfortable, horses and riders trained for three months ahead of the event. 

"Horses by nature are very nervous, and some of them are still quite young," Madely said. "So it's important for us to acclimatise them to this environment so that when they come in, they're at their most beautiful."

International attendees

Both auctions attracted international attention, Madely said, with bidders from all over Canada and the U.S.

Rider Nancy Walk and trainer Melanie Cerny drove seven hours from Amesbury, Mass. for the chance to snag a horse from the RCMP's breeding program. 

Cerny said her needs as a trainer contrast with the needs of the RCMP — a horse whose gait isn't ideal for the Musical Ride might be great for dressage, she said. 

"We complement each other," she said. "What they would not be interested in, we would be very interested in, especially if it has a good head [for training]."

Walk, who rides at Cerny's farm, said she was drawn in by the bloodlines created by the police breeding program.

"I like the temperament, I like the look of them," she said. "I want a horse I can have fun with."

The horses auctioned off didn't meet the stringent requirements to participate in the RCMP's Musical Ride. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Some proceeds going to at-risk youth

Proceeds from both auctions will go to support the force's breeding program and the RCMP Foundation's programs for at-risk youth, Madely said. 

Twenty per cent will go toward initiatives like after-school youth groups, cyber safety programs and anti-bullying programs. 

We had people in Australia bidding on horses.- Sylvie Madely

The auctions normally happen every two years, although the last one was actually three years ago in 2015.

Because of the gap, there are more horses than usual for sale this year — providing the opportunity to split them into two groups and debut an online auction, said Madely.

It proved very popular, she said, with more than 200 people bidding on the 17 horses available online.

"The online auction provided us with the opportunity to really reach people worldwide," she said. "We had people in Australia bidding on horses."

The online half of the auction raised $236,000, making the combined total raised over half a million dollars. 

Horses being sold at the live auction on Oct. 13 trained for three months to be ready for the auction environment. (Leah Hansen/CBC)